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Premier League clubs may be requesting that certain referees not take over their games.
The Daily Mail states that there is evidence that some referees have not refereed a match for a certain club following a controversial decision against that club.
For example, in August 2019 Aston Villa thought they had achieved a late draw against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park when Henri Lansbury scored in injury time. However, Kevin Friend judged that Jack Grealish had gotten into the preparation and consequently ruled out the goal.
Over a year and a half later, Friend has yet to take over another game involving the Dean Smith side.
Similarly, David Coote has also not been involved in a Liverpool game since his VAR horror show at the Merseyside derby in October. The referee somehow did not order goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to be sent off for his end-of-season challenge on Virgil van Dijk.
According to the Daily Mail, a source claims that Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) is making decisions with “awareness of sensitivities”.
Since the introduction of VAR, Premier League officials have come under even greater scrutiny. With the ability to look at key decisions, there are fewer excuses for making a mistake.
This has dramatically increased the heat that Premier League referees are subjected to. Mike Dean recently had to take a break following his much-criticized dismissal of Tomas Soucek in the 0-0 draw between Fulham and West Ham United at Craven Cottage in February.
Obviously, players and coaches may want to avoid referees who have cost them in the past. Similarly, referees may not be completely comfortable taking over a match involving a club with which they are not popular.
However, all referees will have made a mistake in the past against all teams. If clubs start blocking certain referees from refereeing their matches every time the referee makes a mistake, they will eventually be left without referees.
The standard of refereeing in the Premier League is not what it should be. But it is not because of prejudice, but because of sheer incompetence. Unless a referee has an obvious bias against a certain club, this kind of thing cannot continue.
However, it will be until the standards improve and the referees are held accountable for their mistakes.